Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Journey

Welcome back, everybody.

After a strong episode last week, the expectations were high going into this one. More or less, this episode delivered. True, the pace was slower, and there were no big brawls, but it didn’t change the fact that this was an important episode and a good one to boot. As with last week, storylines moved forward, characters progressed, and it truly felt like a show worth watching. It’s not like anyone should be too surprised given that the show was, again, Ryan-centered, and that’s when the show is at its best.

Speaking of Ryan, he was featured in what I consider the most important scene of the season thus far (yeah, I’m actually saying something’s more important than Johnny dying…remember, I’m saying important, not exciting): the scene where he introduces Sadie to the Cohens. Oh but Drew, you’re just saying that because you don’t like Ryan and Marissa. Thanks for playing but no. Look, I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy seeing them apart because not only are they terrible together, but they’re somewhat endearing when they’re apart, but my reason for this is two fold:

1) Character progression
2) Ryan and the Cohens are officially a family

Looking at the first point first, you have to understand that this show is bad when nothing happens. And I’m not talking about the lack of a fistfight or gunshot. I’m talking about just the lack of any forward movement. Even if it’s just word to let us know the characters are thinking rationally, we need something. Look at some of the worst moments ever on the show: the first six episodes or so of 2005 and about eight episodes in this season. In the season two episodes, we had Ryan and Lindsay make no strides in their relationship, and we got bored of a nice relationship. In the season three episodes, we had Marissa and Johnny just sit and stare at each other as if the other was going to grow wings (I bet Johnny wished he actually had wings, huh? Not that they’d have done any good since they were probably as depressed and miserable as he was and wouldn’t flap correctly). And it’d be very easy for Ryan to fall back into this trap of staying still. He could have dropped the invitation off at Marissa’s, heard the CD, and then decided to wait around for her at the party, at the very least just entertaining Sadie instead of courting her. But he chose to accept her, to understand that Marissa isn’t what he needs at the moment. Ryan’s definitely not dense enough to believe Marissa doesn’t still care for him. She wouldn’t have made the mix CD if she didn’t. But he’s finally aware of what’s good for him and what’s not. His relationship with Marissa is unhealthy at this point.

Moving on to the second, it’s nice to see Ryan not just say, “These are the Cohens.” They are more than that. And even though the parenting has been noticeably lacking in the last two seasons, I think that watching Ryan, his chivalry and his decency, we understand that the Cohens have had a remarkable influence on him. Now I’m not saying that they should encourage him to tuck his shirt in every week because it makes him look like a complete ass, but we’ve seen where he came from, and he’s so much better now. And speaking of where he came from, it’s especially nice to know the Cohens are his family since we see what could have been. The decision to bring Dawn back was an interesting one, to be sure. I doubt that we’ve seen the last of her, so I like this idea that she’s coming back in his life. It’s a tie that was never fully severed, and though he’s fully embraced Sandy and Kirsten, he’ll never be able to deny Dawn. I think I would have rather seen Ryan’s father, actually, but I’ll take his mother now. Hopefully it’ll lead to familial complications. I’d love to see Sandy and Kirsten stand up to Dawn and the unnamed father. I doubt there’d be a custody battle—in fact, there couldn’t be—but legalities aside, it’s an interesting battle, one that could seriously tear Ryan apart and give him legitimate inner turmoil. And finally, Ryan’s brother, the brother who has supported him and caused him far fewer problems than Trey: Seth. What a great party he threw together. While I don’t buy that Seth didn’t remember Ryan’s birthday, I can buy that he put so much effort into it. Photoshopped pictures were the nicest touch, and I’m definitely sad we didn’t see Scientist Ryan. Brokeback Ryan was pretty funny, though, and clearly a nod to fans of the show who clamor for Ryan and Seth to hook up. And let’s not forget the Journey cover band who is actually a Foreigner cover band. What a perfect scene, amazingly executed. That Seth actually knew what he was doing was a terrific touch as the writers could have played it as Seth just being a moron. Totally not the case. Maybe Taylor, noticeably absent, helped book the party, as only she could bring such awesomeness.

Segueing from Seth to his girlfriend, who he really didn’t seem to deal with too much this week, I have to say that she completely owned her scene with Julie. Melinda Clarke and Rachel Bilson deserve at least three minutes of screen time together each week. It was brilliantly written and played with a perfect cinematic contrast: the fiery (used to be more) redhead versus the feisty brunette. “Awkward” was just a terrific way to describe the situation, especially considering these two have rarely, if ever, talked. Honestly, when else have they had actual scenes together? I’m drawing a blank, though I’m thinking I shouldn’t. Now, as for the engagement itself, I don’t know how I feel about it. I certainly don’t believe that Julie’s in it for the money this time. She’s put herself through too much just for money. She could easily attract someone else and steal his money. And even she’s not heartless enough to try to steal money from her daughter’s best friend’s father. It’s too touchy. So I think she’s in it for the long haul. It’s Neil that I worry about. They made a conscious effort to note just how quickly Neil proposes. His marriages are clearly failures, and I find it hard to believe that he just happened to marry two women who suck. So I fear we’re going to get the bastard version of Neil Roberts, the one who haphazardly proposes to Julie because the opportunity presents itself and not because he wants to. If that’s the case, we’re going to end up seeing Summer hurt, Julie hurt, and indirectly, others hurt. The fear Josh has of adding adult characters should not be a factor here. He has to overcome it and somehow let this storyline play out with everyone maintaining face. I actually believe that Julie hurting Neil, causing Summer to get pissed at Julie, causing Marissa to step in and defend Julie for some reason, leading to a Summer and Marissa catfight would be a brilliant move. We haven’t seen one since Hailey and Julie.

Looking at Marissa for a moment, I have to say that I’m impressed with the way the flashbacks were intricately woven into the episode in a believable manner. I didn’t feel as if they were forced. I felt they were legitimately triggered, and although Marissa falling down the steps was the height of melodramatic cheese, it somehow works given that Marissa has found herself in some pretty melodramatic situations. Some people dislike alcoholic Marissa, but I find her to be refreshing since I think Mischa plays unhappy much better than she plays anything else. And I’m not talking about “Johnny likes me” unhappy, I’m talking about “I am truly miserable” unhappy. It may be that playing unhappy requires a blank stare and Mischa excels at that, or it may be that she’s just really good. Whatever the case, I like her better this way. Now adding in Volchok, you’ve got an interesting dynamic. She’s pretty messed up now, and although she’s aware she’s better without him, he’s there. And sometimes, having someone else, no matter who, is much better than feeling alone. I suppose that it’s actually an improvement since Marissa’s been known to isolate herself when she drinks. I don’t know that Volchok will save her like Ryan does, but he seems to have somewhat of a vulnerable side, and I’ll be interested to see how that comes out.

Now, I’m hoping that if it doesn’t come out, he’ll pick a fight with Ryan and not with Matt. What writer sat down and decided to hint at a Matt and Marissa relationship? On what planet does it even remotely make sense? I know that many of us were basically statutory mind-rapists when Willa Holland appeared on screen, but no one actually acted on that. If Matt and Marissa becomes an actual storyline, they better handle it with extreme care and have some unbelievable twist (read: Marissa better not sleep with him and get pregnant) waiting for us.

And that takes us from Matt to Sandy and Kirsten, which essentially leads us to the end since they were minor characters this week. They functioned in the Ryan dynamic, and that’s where I like them at times, but I was a little disappointed to see the Sandy becomes Caleb storyline halted. Now, I’ve been clamoring for Sandy the lawyer to return, so I’m not exactly upset we saw it, but it seems like odd timing since the Caleb story was really picking up steam last week, especially with Kirsten’s reaction. I wanted more of that. Anyway, I don’t know if Sandy and Kirsten were thinking straight when they agreed Dawn should be at the party, especially since Ryan basically said his childhood parties sucked. But okay, whatever. At least the terrific letter Dawn sent had the childhood picture of Ryan and now the Cohens can add it to their photo album. That is if Ryan gives it up. And really, is Sandy the best lawyer ever or what? A woman in jail, in New Mexico, and Sandy manages to get her out. He knows everyone! Too bad he’s eeevvvilll now!

No real random thoughts from me tonight. This review came at an exceptionally bad time since it’s another terrible week. I swear to God, I’ll never have another semester like this again. I couldn’t handle it. So much reading, so much writing, so much more reading. I wouldn’t exactly trade it since I’m learning a lot and am being exposed to a lot, but still, c’mon, I’m starting to have chest pains from all the stress.

Knowing that, if anything came off particularly odd, particularly incorrect, particularly short, or particularly wrong then let me know. Next week should be better, but I can make no promises. We’ll see.

Hope everyone has a good week.

Questions, comments, death threats, marriage proposals:

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Road Warrior

“The Road Warrior”

See Josh, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

All it took was a little bit of comedy, a little bit of character progression, a little bit of storyline progression, a little bit of Kelly Rowan acting, a lot of Ryan acting Chino, and a very little bit of Marissa. Hmm, I wonder who thought of that. Oh, right:


See, this show’s success has never been a particular secret to anyone outside of the writer’s room. Even the teenybopper fans were aware that Ryan and Marissa just weren’t working. They knew that Johnny was a complete disgrace. And when those fans, the loyal ones who will regurgitate the company line at the drop of a hat, start to turn on you, you know you’ve done something wrong. But the praise for this episode has been rightfully overwhelmingly positive. In fact, most of the negative press that it’s gotten has been from fans who have already sworn the show off. Some, I believe, simply dismiss the show because it’s the cool thing to do. But I don’t think it’s quite that cool yet. There’s still a lot of good left, and it really looks like we’re about to get it.

So welcome back kids for another fun week. It’s going to be a short one again, but I really think it’s better that way. Don’t you? Okay, you don’t. Well, I apologize.

As you could probably tell from the intro, I was a very big fan of this episode for a multitude of reasons. Most importantly was the progression of character and storylines. The show had been plagued by character indecisiveness in the last few weeks, namely in the form of Marissa, Sandy, and Neil. But Thursday’s episode shot that down completely. A terrific, refreshing change. We’re on the right path, people. And I’m excited.

Obviously, the first place we need to start with Ryan and Marissa because that’s the most important aspect of this episode. It was terrific to see Ryan happy for once. He was completely at ease when he was with Sadie, and after watching him sulk and barely talk (okay, not too weird for Ryan) for half a season, it was refreshing to see him open up. He looked like he was having fun, and that’s probably because he was allowed to be himself with Sadie. True, he still played the savior, helping fix the house and trying to save Sadie from Johnny’s dad and the goons, but he was never in a situation where it had to be done. Sadie wasn’t helpless like Marissa. She was taking charge, something that I loved. But Ryan stepped in because it comes natural. Maybe the best thing was that he got his ass kicked. Could it be that we’ll begin to understand the rage issues that were blatantly discussed earlier this season? There’s a lot of good material to work with there. Now, a lot of people are picking on Ryan for the fact that he just up and left Marissa, and that he played strip poker and hung out with Sadie before he broke up with Marissa. While I expect that waffling from such a fickle fan base, I really have to wonder what show you guys are watching. Ryan owes Marissa nothing. She’s miserable because of her own mistakes (and I do want to interject, but only in a parenthetical because I certainly owe Mischa Barton nothing, but I want to say that she did a phenomenal job this week acting sad and depressed). She ignored Ryan, she ignored her friends, and she completely isolated herself in favor of Johnny. This relationship, for Ryan, ended a long time ago. So while people can complain that Ryan did too much with Sadie too soon or that he didn’t get an appropriate enough grieving period, I urge you to look back at previous episodes. He’s been grieving since last season. He’s had plenty of time to move forward and he has. And he’s better for it. Will this relationship with Sadie get him in trouble? Likely so because that’s what Ryan does, but that’s fun. Ryan’s a terribly flawed person, and we’ve spent too much time not seeing that. I want to see him struggle again.

Of course, no one’s going to struggle quite like Marissa. I’m not sure what to make of the Volchok relationship since it’s, well, random, but I think I like it far better than the Matt/Marissa fling that was hinted in the last episode and even a bit in this one (c’mon, “I think you know Matt,” is clearly a sign for, “I think you should do Matt”). Volchok, at this point, doesn’t care about Marissa, he cares about hurting Ryan. And there’s a delicious irony in the fact that Marissa is used to taking in the vulnerable, and now she is the vulnerable. If her heart is broken by Volchok, it’s very much deserved. I’m particularly interested in seeing the final showdown between Volchok and Ryan. It has potential to be Ryan/Trey-esque, and I’m hoping that the writers see that and plan on taking it that way. The psyche out in “The Anger Management” was cool, but the final payoff should be huge. It should be real.

Back to Ryan for a moment, I hear that people aren’t crazy about his relationship with Sadie with most citing a lack of chemistry or a lack of looks for Nikki Reed. She’s not Mischa or Rachel or Melinda or Kelly, and she’s definitely not Autumn, but I think she’s very pretty, and she’s much more the type of person I see Ryan with at this point in his life. Ryan’s just never quite adjusted to this life of luxury and beauty. This works far better for him, and I’m happy with the way this is all going. I know that Reed won’t be around for much longer, but I do suspect that through her, Ryan’s going to learn a lot about himself. If nothing else, he may learn how to play poker.

As Ryan struggles with his demons, we’re seeing the same thing from Sandy. He’s put himself in a terrible position, and he just seems blinded. This story, which started nicely despite fans’ cries that it wasn’t working, did really start to come to a halt when Sandy waffled terribly, and Matt was characterized as a moron. But this week, Sandy showed where he stands. He showed that he cares more about the hospital being built than he does about anything else. And he showed that he’s willing to hurt anyone. Matt, for once, showed a great vulnerability at the dinner scene. He wants the hospital too, and it seemed like it took something out of him to actually tell Maya that. Maybe I misread him, but I sensed hurt in his voice. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he had to tell her the truth, and the truth just didn’t sound pretty. The thing with Sandy, though, is that he wants to do a good thing, but there is only one way to do the good thing. Do the ends justify the means? I highly doubt that Caleb ever cared that much about doing good things, but I think that was we study Sandy, we’re learning more about Caleb. And as we learn about him, we see Kirsten’s reactions. I truly think that’s why she’s so insistent that Sandy wake up and see what he’s doing. She’s seen this business and what it can do. It’s got to be difficult watching her husband morally deteriorate.

Speaking of storylines moving forward, it was very nice to see Neil grow some balls and admit that he liked Julie. He was making such good strides before pussing out in the last episode. And he and Julie seem to be having a great time. The best part of this story, though, wasn’t Julie and Neil’s interaction, but Seth, Summer, and Taylor working together to uncover what’s going on. Okay, don’t get me wrong, I loved Julie as Sharon Stone, and I kept waiting for a Sharon Stone shot, but alas, it didn’t come. Still, the fun part was watching Julie’s horrified reaction as Summer listed all the qualities her dad looks for and all the qualities that he doesn’t need. Julie doing crossword puzzles is simple but hilarious. And that’s truthfully all I have to say about that. This story is progressing along fine, even though Seth is still relegated to supporting role. Hopefully they’ll come back to the pot storyline soon because I think it wrapped up far too quickly. College anst does not end that quickly.

Random Thoughts…

How freaking weird was that opening scene? I couldn’t decide if it was a drug-induced scene. Seth is in the hot tub with the two girls. Why? Seth doesn’t want to be with the girls. Why? It was funny, sure, but completely unnecessary.

But before that came an awesome dig at One Tree Hill (other people are saying that it was a dig about Grey’s Anatomy or other shows, and while I don’t doubt that, I truly think that OTH was the intended target, especially since Mike Kelley, who wrote this episode, was a writer with Schwahny and company on the WB in season one) with the voiceover. I wondered what the hell was going on, and when Marissa came in and actually turned the voice off, I cheered. What a perfect moment.

I really enjoyed the use of “Forever Young” in this episode. I didn’t think it fit the scene last time it was used, but it really made sense now. The last time, Ryan and Marissa thought that everything was okay, and in this episode, they realized it wasn’t.

The breakup scene was incredibly effective, I have to say. There was no need to drag it out. They have big melodramatic scenes every week. A simple phone call without many words was exactly the way it should be done. Kudos writers, and kudos Ben and Mischa for playing it very well.

Taylor’s back! She just has to hook up with the Korean barbecue guy. Please?

And that’s it folks. I can’t believe I finished this in one sitting. Writing less makes it much easier.

I truly enjoyed this episode. It was grittier, darker, and just more fun. And that’s what the show should be. Here’s to parties, fights, and Marissa and Ryan apart.

I’ll see you in seven.


Questions, comments, anything?